‘Tis the season for French style wine tasting in the Texas Hill Country! People from all over the world choose this breathtaking location for their Fall getaway! Wineries throughout the Hill country compete each Autumn for the best in food and wine, making the options almost overwhelming. Our guests at The William tend to desire the best of the best, and we are always here to provide it! We’d like to highlight a hidden gem we think will make your visit to the Hill Country a truly memorable experience.
Each winery in the Texas Hill Country has a story, and some of them are fascinating, but Calais Winery, ranks in our Top 10 for a story as unique as their wine. This winery can be hard to miss if you’re not looking for it. Named as the only French style wine in the Texas Hill Country, this winery filled our hearts and surpassed our expectations.
Connie McLellan, with Hill Country Visitor, and Grande Dame of the Texas Hill Country’s BEST of “Who, What and Where,” opened my eyes to this fabulous find. Located in Hye, Texas, Cailas Winery‘s only address marker is a small French flag, which, from the freeway turnoff, is hard to find. We flew past it three times! With only the field in view from the freeway, the surprise is that its tasting room is below ground in a man-made CAVE! Owner, engineer and winemaker, Benjamin Calais says, “We just started peeling away layers until we had a big enough space to store our barrels and host private tastings.” Tastings are by reservation ONLY, and hard to get, so let us call ahead for you. As we opened the giant and heavy doors to the private wine cave, we were ACTUALLY greeted by Benjamin, who served as our personal guide through his own wines.
As we tasted each bold wine, he allowed us into his story, and we discovered that it was as unique as his wines. Originally from Calais, France, Benjamin grew up farming, moved to Texas to study engineering, and ultimately found wine making to be the perfect blend of his passions. Calais offers a refreshing approach to French winemaking, using 100% Texas grapes. With each vintage, he insists on using only superior grapes, limiting his production, to avoid sacrificing quality. This practice makes him a standout in the industry, as he’s that serious about making great wine.
What began as a hobby – winemaking – quickly took center stage for Calais. In 2008 Calais Winery opened in Dallas’ Deep Ellum, a neighborhood known for its restaurants, gastro pubs, arts and entertainment. He quickly made a name for himself in the Texas Wine scene over the next several years. At that point, the desire to live and establish a presence in the quaint community of Hye, TX led him to purchase land and move the winery to the Texas Hill Country. The winery doors opened in May of 2015 and the decision has proven successful.
As an ardent advocate for production of French style wines from 100% Texas grapes, Benjamin participates in various associations dedicated to this cause. His reputation as a collaborator and partner among local wineries makes him a respected member in the Texas Hill Country wine making scene. They are also providing and shipping virtual tastings during quarantine as seen below!
After visiting the origin of the wines, McLellan’s next stop was to French Connection Wines, Calais Winery’s larger wine tasting counterpart. The tasting includes a larger variety of Calais Wines along with a charcuterie board as beautiful as its scenery. Running the show here is Victoria Gimino, Tasting Room Operations Officer, along with Sheri Pattillo, Sales and Marketing, and Pat Pattillo, handling Client Relations. We were so warmly welcomed to this stunning outdoor tasting with only the finest of their wines. Honestly, though, the history behind each wine by a tasting expert took this tasting beyond any I’d experienced before. With each wine, a picture was painted with its history, but also the perfect setting for the wine to be consumed today. McLellan knew I’d be impressed, but this left me speechless.
To showcase their over-the-top French style wines, they even include a port-style 2015 Roussanne, made with Texas high-plains grapes. This Roussanne is aged 4 years in French oak barrels and paired with house made macaroons, finishing off the robust tasting. Overlooking the Texas Hill Country, this tasting checked all the tasting boxes, and created some of their very own!
We will definitely be back, but expect more on the Texas Hill Country wine circuit, as we will be showcasing 9 more vineyards. Stay tuned!